Paying off your mortgage early is one goal that seems impossible and out of reach for many people, but in truth, most people can conquer the task with a little determination. It’s currently the number one financial goal my husband and I have set for ourselves, and we’ve done everything we can to get our mortgage balance as low as possible.
We haven’t always been on that path, though. The last house we owned was far too big for us and not in a great area of town. Luckily, we were able to sell it and break even when we did.
After a frustrating and harried search for a new home, we stumbled upon a foreclosure property out in the country that was far less money than we intended to spend (although it needed some work), and we decided to make some changes to our finances by simply downsizing. It was almost a hasty decision since we had to be out of our old house so quickly, but it’s one that I’m so glad we made.
Downsizing our house also allowed us to downsize our mortgage, and that’s the biggest reason we are where we are today, almost completely debt free, including our mortgage.
Although I typically don’t talk about it in person to many people, I do like to write about it on my own blog, and I’ve found that people love to learn tips as to how we are doing it. Paying down your mortgage is a popular topic in the personal finance world!
We already know that refinancing may not always be the answer to help you pay down your mortgage faster, especially if you already have a great rate. Instead, consider these tips I’ve personally used to pay down my mortgage quicker.
Value Based Spending
When we wanted to get serious about paying off our mortgage, we studied our spending habits to see what we could cut that wouldn’t really change our quality of life. With value based spending, we simply decided to cut the expenses that didn’t make us happy and spend our money more consciously.
We decided to cut out restaurant tabs (except on special occasions), worked on cutting our grocery bill, and cut our clothing and grooming purchases (no more mall shopping or hair highlights for me).
We also opted to stop buying each other gifts for “Hallmark Holidays” such as Mother’s and Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and even our anniversary. We don’t want things from each other, we want to spend quality time together, so that’s exactly what we do on those days instead. Our bond is tighter because of it.
I honestly don’t miss any of the things I gave up, and I haven’t looked back. I can see a tangible difference in our finances, and the more our mortgage balance drops, the more determined I am to make sure we’re spending our money where it counts.
It has just proven to me that small changes can offer big rewards, and you don’t have to become a cheapskate to reach your loftiest financial goals.
Buy Less Than You Can Afford…
If you’re currently shopping for homes (or thinking about it), if you really want to get your mortgage paid off as quickly as possible, start with buying less house than you can afford.
I think many borrowers today are straying from the old American dream of buying the fancy McMansion, opting instead for a modestly sized home with equally modest mortgage and utility payments. It’s a trend that I’m loving, and one I hope that lasts.
I often hear people talk about being happier in their smaller home (I know I am), and how relaxing and freeing it can be to open yourself up to other financial opportunities such as travel, debt payoff, and investing.
Having a smaller mortgage payment affords you many more opportunities than maxing out your housing budget does.
If you don’t think mortgage payoff is possible in the near future, consider selling your current home and downsizing. It may be hard to think about downsizing your home, but you’ll ultimately be upgrading your life. Downsizing not only helps you financially, but it also allows you to free your life of additional clutter and makes it much easier to maintain and clean your home.
Even if you think your family is too big to downsize, consider that not every child has to have their own bedroom. Think about how much easier it could be if you got rid of some of your clutter, even if that means furniture.Want to accelerate your #mortgage payments? Use these tips to become #debt free faster! Click To Tweet
Pick Your Strategy
There are so many different strategies you can use to pay down your mortgage. Hopefully you already have a spending plan so that you can see where you might have some extra money to utilize for your goal.
My favorite options are these:
- Every year, if you get a tax refund, apply the entire refund to your principal. Instead of buying that TV or taking another vacation to the beach, think about how much you’ll be able to do in the future if you’re able to shave a few years off of your mortgage. That might put things into perspective.
- Apply every raise, work bonus, and even birthday or Christmas money to your mortgage.
- Start a side hustle and use the profit for your mortgage. (Freelance writing, mow lawns, sell some of your stuff on eBay, walk dogs, or turn your hobby into a part time money maker on Etsy.)
- Instead of paying your mortgage once a month, time your payments to coincide with your biweekly paychecks and make biweekly mortgage payments instead. (Each payment will be half of your monthly mortgage payment.) You’ll end up making an additional payment for the year if you do (13 instead of 12 payments), and you could shave a few years off your mortgage by doing this.
- If you can’t implement any of these options, try to round up your mortgage payments to the nearest hundredth if you can. Even $20 extra on your payment will get you closer to your goal, and you won’t miss an extra $20. If you can add $20 this month, challenge yourself to increase it to $30 next month, then $40, and so on until you truly miss the extra money. By then, you’ll be used to adding at least a few extra dollars to your payment, and you’ll have already made some headway. The hardest part is just starting, but once you do, it’ll become a habit.
It may not seem like a lot of money to begin with, especially if your mortgage balance is higher than you like, but every little bit counts. Each extra dollar you can spare now results in additional interest savings later.
Try using an online mortgage calculator to see how the savings add up, and remember, you don’t have to pick just one strategy. Pick the one that seems the easiest for you and go with it.
Protect Yourself First
Before doing anything, build up an emergency fund so that you have money available to you if needed due to job loss or the hot water heater going out. You don’t want to pursue early mortgage payoff so much that you don’t have cash to fall back on if you need it, especially if you had to charge up a credit card to get you out of an emergency. (That will pretty much defeat the purpose.)
Choose Your Mortgage Term Wisely
When shopping for your mortgage, make sure to get the smallest term you’re comfortable with because the longer the term you choose, the higher the rate you will pay and the more interest you will accrue. A smaller mortgage term can make a huge difference.
A 15 year term versus a 30 year term will save you thousands over the life of the loan, but if you don’t feel comfortable with the payment on a 15 year loan, you can also opt for a 25 or 20 year term for substantial savings as well.
If you can’t stand the thought of not getting a 30 year mortgage (just in case something happens to your job), make sure to ask your loan officer what the payment would be on a 15 year note, and then make that higher payment every month as long as you can swing it. Any extra amount counts, and even if you can’t manage to pay the higher amount every month, you’ll still see some savings.
If you’ve ever paid down any sort of debt, then you probably know what a satisfying feeling it is to see that number continuously drop. It’s motivating. Find out what motivates you and implement it for your own finances.
I’m happy to report that my husband and I are within months of paying off our home, and I can’t tell you how great that feels. With hard work, determination, and maybe a little luck, I think that anyone can get there.
Are you prioritizing paying off your mortgage? Why or why not? If you are, how are you managing aggressive payments?